Breast cancer-specific miR signature unique to extracellular vesicles includes microRNA-like tRNA fragments

Nicole Guzman, Kitty Agarwal, Dilip Asthagiri, Lianbo Yu, Motoyasu Saji, Matthew D. Ringel, Michael E. Paulaitis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Extracellular vesicles (EV), including exosomes and shed vesicles, have been implicated in intercellular communication; however, their biomarker potential is less clear. Therefore, EVs derived from MCF7 and MCF10A cells were analyzed to identify unique miRNA (miR) profiles that distinguish their origin. One characteristic common to the miR profiles of MCF7 EVs and their parent cells is the high abundance of miR-21, let-7a, miR-100, and miR-125b, and low levels of miR-205. A second characteristic is the high abundance of miRNA-like tRNA fragments, which is unique to the MCF7 EVs, and is not found in comparing the cellular profiles. In addition, correlations were examined in the MCF7 cellular expression levels of these five miRs and two tRNA-derived miRNAs, miR-720 and miR-1274b, and compared with the correlations in MCF7 EV levels. Interestingly, correlations in the cellular expression of miR-125b, miR-100, and let-7a are mirrored in the EVs. In contrast, correlations in tRNA-derived miRNA levels are found only in the EVs. The findings suggest that EV miR clusters can be defined based on functional miR interactions related to correlated cellular expression levels or physical miR interactions, for example, aggregation due to comparable binding affinities to common targets. Implications: These results point to using high levels of tRNAderived small RNA fragments in combination with known miR signatures of tumors to distinguish tumor-derived EVs in circulation from EVs derived from other cell sources. Such biomarkers would be unique to the EVs where high abundances of tRNA fragments are amplified with respect to their cellular levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-901
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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